Heavy goods vehicles

For heavy goods transport over short journeys (for example in a container port) electrifying the drivetrain can drastically reduce the CO2 and pollutant emissions. This is primarily down to the high proportion of idling time for the vehicles that occurs for logistical reasons.

As part of the project relating to the use of battery-powered heavy goods vehicles in the HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder, driverless heavy goods vehicles known as Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), which move the containers within the port, were converted from diesel-electric to battery-electric powertrains. ifeu was responsible for academic supervision of the project and came to the following conclusions in its ecological assessment:

Significant climate relief

The climatic effect of battery-powered AGVs (B-AGVs) depends significantly on the power mix used, and is significantly below the climate impact of diesel-electric (E-AVG) systems in all scenarios. Even with the use of today’s average German power mix, the greenhouse gas emissions per container handling are reduced by around 25% (including vehicle production). The ecological electricity used in the project reduced the climate impact by over 55%. An approximately 85% reduction of the climatic effect can be achieved by using electricity from additional plants generating renewable electricity (e.g. wind power).

Comparison of climatic effect for powertrain configurations for AGVs (IFEU 2011)
(Please click to enlarge)

The positive effects of electrification are due for the most part to energy savings when idling because, in contrast to the diesel engine, the electric motor does not consume any energy when the vehicle is at a standstill. Braking energy recovery also plays a role, and this is only possible with electric drivetrains.

Significant contribution to air quality management

Localised pollutant emissions are avoided completely. This is particularly significant for two reasons:

  • Ports are usually very close to densely populated areas, which often have problems with air quality management in any case
  • The limit values for exhaust emissions from conventionally operated heavy goods vehicles are less rigid than those for road vehicles. These vehicles therefore frequently have disproportionately high emissions of pollutants such as nitrous gases, which are harmful to human health.

Heavy goods fleets as flexible consumers

If the vehicle's traction batteries are empty, they are exchanged and recharged in a central charging station. When scheduling the charging procedures, there is a certain room for manoeuvre that can be used to respond to the fluctuating conditions relating to electricity generation (intelligent charging). For example, the charging times for the spare batteries can be postponed by aligning the charging strategy with the wind energy forecast until times of higher wind power generation, without impairing the productivity of the AGVs operating in the port. In this way, the port makes a contribution to the improved integration of fluctuating renewable energies.